NEW YORK — Omar Narvaez’s relationship and success with Felix Hernandez, the Mariners’ starting pitcher Monday, took precedence over the opposing starting pitcher being left-handed.
Narvaez was in the lineup at Yankee Stadium despite New York starting big lefty CC Sabathia. On most occasions, back-up catcher Tom Murphy, who bats right-handed, would be in the starting lineup with a lefty on the mound. But with Hernandez starting for Seattle, manager Scott Servais eschewed the platoon play and started the left-handed hitting Narvaez, who has caught Hernandez in every start this season.
“Felix and Omar have a good thing going,” Servais said. “I think Omar likes to get on Felix. I think he enjoys it, frankly.”
The duo can often be heard jawing and trash-talking in Spanish before games. Both men hail from Venezuela and have developed a good rapport. Hernandez praised Narvaez’s game-calling skills and decision making.
“I’m just following Narvaez,” he said. “He calls the pitches, and I throw it. We’ve got a pretty good thing going.”
That hasn’t always been the case this season. But Narvaez’s persistence has changed that thinking over time. He is one of the few catchers who won’t cede to Hernandez’s desires. He will push back and can be the intimidator in the situation.
“Felix did not have a good spring training,” Servais said before the game Monday. “Omar just understands what Felix has been. Certainly, when you are from the same country there is a whole thing there. Omar is very engaged with Felix. That back and forth is good to see. At this level, it’s about results, and those two are getting pretty good results right now.”
Initially, Mallex Smith wanted to report immediately to Class AAA Tacoma after the Mariners made the decision to send him down April 30 to work on some of his hitting woes. He told Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto he wanted to play that very night with the Rainiers in Salt Lake City.
But something changed his mind, and he instead used all 72 hours allotted for him to report to Tacoma by returning home to Florida to visit his personal swing guru, Frankie Colon, who has a hitting academy in St. Petersburg. Smith went to get Colon’s input before reporting to the Rainiers on Saturday. In two games with Tacoma, Smith has four hits with three stolen bases and a walk.
“He’s getting on base, getting a lot of hits and stealing a lot of bases,” Servais said. “The reports have been good. He’s got everything going again. That’s why we removed him from this situation to give him a reboot and start over. It seems like he’s off to a good start.”
Servais said he wasn’t bothered by Smith’s decision to visit Colon.
“All these guys have ‘their guy’ that they lean on,” Servais said. “Some organizations frown on it or look down on it. I don’t, and we don’t. You just have to understand who is in their inner circle. I’ve actually met Mallex’s guy. I know exactly where he went. I know exactly what cages he was using. That’s one of the reasons I went to visit Mallex this winter was to get to know these guys. Meeting his hitting-guru guy was a good experience. I enjoyed it. Manny Acta was with me. When it came to me that he wanted to go to Florida, I was like, ‘Great, go do whatever it takes.'”
Left-hander Wade LeBlanc (oblique strain) threw his second bullpen session Monday. LeBlanc is scheduled to go to Class AAA Tacoma in the next few days to throw a live batting practice session. If that goes as expected, he’ll start a rehab assignment with the Rainiers. LeBlanc likely would need two rehab starts before returning to the rotation.
Third baseman Kyle Seager continues to progress in his recovery from surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left hand. Seager still is working out daily at T-Mobile Park.